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Modern politics - an 18-year-old's perspective

Will Andrews was an intern at Wells Haslem Mayhew in February 2019.

He is in his first year of a Bachelor Commerce at the University of Sydney.

After graduating from high school, nothing seemed more imminent and important than the upcoming elections, state and federal.

While it can be assumed that many young people vote the same way as their parents, there are the rare few who formulate and evaluate their own electoral preferences.

I’ve always been keenly interested in the politics of our nation, the illusive face, the barely visible reality. Whilst it has taken me longer to understand the rather unpleasant truth of politics, the same questions remain potent, even in my rather inexperienced mind.

In my view, the role of government has never changed. What has changed is people’s perception and unusual ‘reliance’ on our leadership. The most obvious cause of this new interest and emotional attachment to politics is the media.

Prior to the easy access and relatively ‘free’ sources of social media, most people were not attuned to the daily actions of Government. A sense of trust existed that our elected representatives could work for our benefit behind the scenes of daily life.

Whilst it is impossible to reverse the advent of social media or control the significant voice of citizens in government, some change is needed. Questions need to be asked as to what we can/should expect from government. For me, my expectations are low, I do not want politics to feature in my daily life.

Nothing shows the lack of maturity and suitability for governance than the videos of Question Time. Politicians address each other with the same level of disgrace that two drunk people would show during an argument on the street. What is supposed to be a critical point for policy discussion is nothing but defamation and character assassination. How is that supposed to garner the proper respect that a people should show their leaders?

Whilst I am not blaming all of Australia’s political failures on Government, they are the epicentre of the problem. Before I continue with this point, I should stress that while my opinion may not be correct, it is a perspective brewing rapidly in the minds of young people.

The ‘us versus them’ mentality is not just an issue for politicians. Many young people are beginning to understand that the media is equally, perhaps more, to blame.

We have been fed the opinion that political journalists are there to ‘keep our politicians accountable.’

This ignores the fact that like any other private company, media firms are focussed primarily on profits. These profits are made by gaining viewers who would otherwise not care as much about politics, thus encouraging stories that create emotional reactions, clouding understanding.

My first step in election evaluation is changing the type of question I ask myself.

I do not ask, ‘why does that party deserve another term?’. Instead, I think it better to ask, ‘why shouldn’t they have another term?’.

This question is based around the premise that we should assume a government will remain in office, only to be removed in drastic circumstances. Consistency in administration far outweighs the disruption and inefficiency that goes along with a change of governing party.

To complete this step properly requires the understanding that every government will make some unpopular decisions, no matter how good they appear at election time.

What direction has the country or state moved in since they have been in office? What direction are we heading in?

Assessing the integrity of each party’s promises during the election is vital. This is directly drawn from my experience and viewing of how parties contest elections. I try to decipher which policies were designed to gain votes and which policies were genuinely adopted due to their merit.

Proving why the other party should not be in power is a bad habit that Australia has seemed to pick up. For me, and many other young people, a party should contest an election by expressing their own merit, letting the people decipher the differences.

Despite all the hopefulness I have for a renewal in political integrity, people are fed up. It is easy to look disapprovingly towards other Western nations’ politics: the shambles of the US Congress and Brexit are just a start. But one can’t help but notice that our own country is drifting inexorably toward the same fate. A lack of trust in the political system is, in my eyes, the beginning of the end for an effective and respectable government.

So, as young people approach their first ballot box this year, we can only hope for something different.

We are sick and tired of reflecting on the good old-fashioned stoic leadership of Hawke through to Howard, as if that style is lost to history, just out of reach.

Considering there is not that big of a difference between the two major parties’ policies, we are well placed for an upgrade in standards.

Who this will come from remains to be seen.